Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 1, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 52 of 55 OCT. 1, 2018 53 that was raging in Europe. Approxi- mately 2,200 Notre Dame students entered the uniformed service, and 46 were killed in action. Their names are the ones memorialized at the "God, Country, Notre Dame" side entrance of Sacred Heart Church on campus. Only four monogram winners from the 1917 team returned, although one of them was superstar halfback George Gipp. Rockne's debut occurred Sept. 26, 1918, in Cleveland with a 26-6 victory versus Case Tech (now Case Western Reserve) after falling behind 6-0. Gipp scored twice for Notre Dame, but the initial touchdown of the Rockne era was reportedly tallied by freshman Earl Louis "Curly" Lambeau, who later would leave school because of tonsillitis and in August 1919 he began a professional football league with the founding of the Green Bay Packers. The second setback was likewise deadly to the world. In late September, right around after the opener versus Case Tech, the Span- ish influenza pandemic that would afflict 20 million Americans and kill about 675,000 in the States had hit. Worldwide, approximately 500 million people — about one-third of the world's population back then — became infected and the death toll was estimated at 50 million. The genesis of the epidemic in the United States struck in Boston before infiltrating Camp Devens, about 30 miles east, where 50 soldiers died Sept. 25. The spread from there went well beyond exponential. • In Washington, D.C., all of the nurses at George Washington Hos- pital caught the flu, bringing the ser- vices there to a halt. • On Oct. 10 alone, Philadelphia suffered 528 deaths. • A week later (Oct. 17) in Chicago on "Black Thursday," 381 died and 1,200 new cases were reported. It was decreed that no more than 10 mourn- ers could attend a funeral. • At Camp Grant in Rockford, Ill., 10,713 soldiers took ill, and at Camp Dodge, Iowa, the barracks had to be made into hospital wards for approx- imately 8,000 patients. • In Modesto, Calif., school lessons were published in the local newspa- per, and the children mailed their completed assignments to teachers at the closed schools. Throughout the country, any area of assemblage — theatres, bars, schools, churches, sporting events, etc. — were ordered closed in efforts to keep the disease from spreading. (The World Series, won by the Boston Red Sox, was played Sept. 5-11.) Notre Dame was not immune to the pandemic, with about 200 cases reported, and among them a nun nurse and nine students died. From 1917-18, life expectancy in the United States fell about 12 years, to 36.6 years for men and 42.2 years for women. As a result of this plague, Notre Dame's scheduled games with Army (the service academies suspended intercollegiate athletics), Washington & Jefferson, Kalamazoo, Purdue and Camp Custer were cancelled. RESUMING THE SEASON By late October, the outbreak be- gan to ebb, but there was still some understandable paranoia. The scheduled game at Nebraska Nov. 2 was called off when right be- fore the Notre Dame players were to board the train for Lincoln, a telegram arrived from the school's administra- tion reporting that "the Lincoln city council has voted to keep the ban on sporting events in effect because of flu, even though state has lifted ban." Eager to get back to a sense of nor- malcy, Rockne called fellow Notre Dame graduate Pete Vaughn, who was coaching Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., and arranged for a game Nov. 2. Rockne's crew easily romped to a 67-7 win to move to 2-0. • On Nov. 9, the lone Notre Dame home game that year was played ver- sus Great Lakes, comprised of for- mer collegians that included George "Papa Bear" Halas, the founder of the Chicago Bears. It was the first of what would be numerous meetings between Lambeau and Halas teams. The game ended in a 7-7 tie — and two days later on Nov. 11, World War I in Europe officially ended. • Next up on Nov. 16 was a trip to East Lansing, Mich., to face Michigan Agricultural College — the job Rockne seriously considered earlier in the year. Under new head coach George Gauthier, the Aggies (before they became the Spartans) posted a 13-7 victory. In later years in the Michigan State football media guide, that day was referred to as "one of the most as- tounding upsets in Aggie history." • State rival Purdue did not give in to the Big Ten's desire to blackball Notre Dame, and the Oct. 19 game that had been cancelled was resched- uled Nov. 23 at West Lafayette, Ind. In the ninth-ever meeting between the two teams, Notre Dame romped to a 26-6 conquest. • Rockne's debut season ended, appropriately enough, on Thanks- giving Day, Nov. 28, when the Ne- braska contest was finally played. Notre Dame did not yield a single first down to the Cornhuskers on the muddy field, but was unable to put any points on the board itself in the scoreless deadlock. The final record of 3-1-2 remains relatively unheralded in the history books, but the "rest of the story," including a 9-0 finish the following year (1919) that would win the school its first recognition as a national champion, would remain everlasting. In the ravages of a World War and an international flu epidemic 100 years ago, the University of Notre Dame football program had still found a "Rock" upon which to continue to build its football foundation. ✦ Note: Former Blue & Gold Illus- trated freelance writer Bud Maloney, who died in 2010, made many contribu- tions to this story with his research. Rockne finished 3-1-2 in his first campaign as the head coach at Notre Dame on his way to a 13-season mark of 105-12-5. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH DIGITAL MEDIA

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